The singularity infomania and programmed reality which is our future which is our present by jim elvidge
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The singularity infomania and programmed reality which is our future which is our present by jim elvidge

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The Singularity Infomania and Programmed Reality Which is our future Which is our present by Jim Elvidge...

The Singularity Infomania and Programmed Reality Which is our future Which is our present by Jim Elvidge

There is a school of thought which has gained significant credibility and momentum,
largely as the result of Ray Kurzweil’s best-selling book “The Singularity is Near.” It is
based on the belief that we will achieve a technological singularity in the coming decades
(Kurzweil puts the date at 2045), a sort of AI-run-amok scenario. Closely related is the
concept of Transhumanism, which predicts that due to the same trends and forces, we
will merge with artificial intelligence (AI) and evolve into a new species of cybernetic
being that will essentially be immortal. This is a logical theory of the future that is based
on Moore’s Law, nanotechnology, and trends in AI. This paper will show that there is
actually evidence that the accelerating trend may be slowing down, due to reaching the
limitation of human’s ability to keep up with the pace of technology. Instead, this is
actually strong evidence for the theory of Programmed Reality.
Programmed Reality is a different, yet somewhat overlapping theory, that takes Moore’s
Law to an alternative conclusion. That is, between advances in virtual reality
simulations, gaming, and Brain Computer Interfacing (BCI), we will eventually be able
to create reality simulations that are of such high quality from a “sensory experience”
standpoint, that they will be indistinguishable from “real” reality. I, Kurzweil, Nick
Bostrom, and others put this event at about 20 years from now, or in the 2025-2030
range. Bostrom, Director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University,
makes the logical argument in his “Are You Living in a Computer Simulation?” paper,
that we are most likely living in a simulation now. My book “The Universe – Solved!”,
explores significant additional classes of evidence that lend support to the idea that we
may be living in a programmed reality, if not via a “Matrix”-like simulation, then by a
program that drives the physical world. Either way, if true, it revolutionizes our concept
of reality.

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The singularity infomania and programmed reality which is our future which is our present by jim elvidge The singularity infomania and programmed reality which is our future which is our present by jim elvidge Document Transcript

  • The Singularity, Infomania, and Programmed Reality Which is our future? Which is our present? by Jim ElvidgeThere is a school of thought which has gained significant credibility and momentum,largely as the result of Ray Kurzweil’s best-selling book “The Singularity is Near.” It isbased on the belief that we will achieve a technological singularity in the coming decades(Kurzweil puts the date at 2045), a sort of AI-run-amok scenario. Closely related is theconcept of Transhumanism, which predicts that due to the same trends and forces, wewill merge with artificial intelligence (AI) and evolve into a new species of cyberneticbeing that will essentially be immortal. This is a logical theory of the future that is basedon Moore’s Law, nanotechnology, and trends in AI. This paper will show that there isactually evidence that the accelerating trend may be slowing down, due to reaching thelimitation of human’s ability to keep up with the pace of technology. Instead, this isactually strong evidence for the theory of Programmed Reality.Programmed Reality is a different, yet somewhat overlapping theory, that takes Moore’sLaw to an alternative conclusion. That is, between advances in virtual realitysimulations, gaming, and Brain Computer Interfacing (BCI), we will eventually be ableto create reality simulations that are of such high quality from a “sensory experience”standpoint, that they will be indistinguishable from “real” reality. I, Kurzweil, NickBostrom, and others put this event at about 20 years from now, or in the 2025-2030range. Bostrom, Director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University,makes the logical argument in his “Are You Living in a Computer Simulation?” paper,that we are most likely living in a simulation now. My book “The Universe – Solved!”,explores significant additional classes of evidence that lend support to the idea that wemay be living in a programmed reality, if not via a “Matrix”-like simulation, then by aprogram that drives the physical world. Either way, if true, it revolutionizes our conceptof reality.Rather than being a theory of the future, Programmed Reality is more a theory ofeverything; the past, the present, and the future. And the Singularity would thereforeoccur within the construct of our Programmed Reality. This has some interestingimplications for the likelihood of the Singularity actually happening; in fact, it alsoprovides a test case for the validity of the whole theory. This paper explores thedifferences between the two views of the future and presents evidence that already existsthat not only do we live in a programmed reality, but if so, the Singularity will neveroccur.Evidence for the Programmed RealityIt is worthwhile to briefly review the evidence that we are living in a programmed reality.There is much more detail in the book, but to summarize:
  • 1. OUR DISCRETE WORLD - It takes an infinite amount of resources to create acontinuous reality, but a finite amount to create a quantized reality. The very nature of thecomputational mechanisms of a computer are essentially the same as QuantumMechanics - a sequence of states, with nothing existing or happening between the states.The resolution of any program is analogous to the spatial resolution of our reality, just ata different level. In fact, if you carry Moores Law forward (which has been consistentover the past 40 years), computers will reach the Planck resolution in 2192. Not too faroff. However, you dont need to model reality all the way to that level for the model to beindistinguishable from our reality. Lets say you want to examine the guts of a tree. Youcut it open, scrape off a few cells and put them under a microscope, maybe an electronmicroscope. To simulate this computationally, one doesnt have to model every singletree down to the Planck level. Only the observed tree needs to be modeled, and then onlythe cells selected, and then only down to a resolution that matches the observationallimitations of our measurement devices. The program can do that dynamically. And allquantum effects can be programmatically modeled without building a reality model to thePlanck level. So, given Moores law and the limitations of "observational reality", weshould be able to create Virtual Realities that are indistinguishable from our currentreality within 20 years or so. The very fact that our reality is quantized may be consideredstrong evidence that reality is programmed.2. THE SIMULATION TIMELINE - Various modern philosophers and scientists haveposited that we are likely to be living a simulation. This is because it is highly probablethat we will be able to create ancestor simulations within a few years, when we achieve aposthuman stage. Due either to the number of simulations that will be run, or to theproximity that we are to that stage, it is actually more probable that we are in one than thecase where we havent yet reached that stage. Again, there is no way to tell that we arentin a programmed reality.3. THE FINE-TUNED UNIVERSE - The universe is unbelievably finely tuned for thephysical existence of matter, let alone life. For example, universal constants cancel out allof the vacuum energy in the universe to an amazing accuracy of one part in 10 to the115th power. Also, a deviation in the expansion rate of the early universe of 1 part in abillion in either direction would have caused the universe to immediately collapse, or flyapart so fast that stars could never have formed. And there are many more such examples.The only explanation that mainstream science can come up with is that either anuncountably huge number of universes are spawned every second (the Everettinterpretation of Quantum Mechanics) or an uncountably huge number of universes arealready out there, most of which are entirely benign and unable to support life or even theformation of matter. Via the magic sleight of hand of the anthropic principle, we happento be in the only perfect one. It certainly seems that Occams Razor heavily favors thesimulation theory here.4. THOSE PESKY ANOMALIES - The huge set of well-studied anomalies facing us infields as varied as metaphysics, physics, philosophy, geology, anthropology, andpsychology can all be explained only by the programmed reality model. The mathematicsof coincidence, the perceived acceleration of society, OOPart, the truth about the
  • paranormal, quantum entanglement, the existence of oil - they all fit neatly into thishypothesis. No other theory can make that claim.What does Programmed Reality say about our world?There are some key implications of the programmed reality:1. SOMEONE PROGRAMMED IT – It stands to reason that some entity created ourreality. The entity could be human in the future, AIs, or biological ETs. In any case, theentity would have to be significantly advanced in comparison to the technology that weperceive ourselves to have in this reality. It seems to be a fairly safe assumption that,given the advanced level of this entity, it would probably not have evil intentions.2. ALL OF OUR PHYSICAL LAWS AND OBSERVATIONS ARE ILLUSORY –Therefore, it may make no sense to argue logically that ETs can’t reach us because of thespeed of light, or that Planck-level simulations are too far beyond our technology to bepossible. These things, these physical limits of our sciences, are simply the physics of“the program” and are therefore illusory, in the same sense as the rules that governmovement in a video game.3. IT COULD HAVE STARTED AT ANY TIME – It is impossible to argue that it isinconceivable for memories to be suspended, erased, stored, or inserted artificially. Assuch, we cannot trust our memories to be absolutes. Let’s say the simulation started 10years ago. At that point, all conscious entities would have to have consistent memorysets inserted into their consciousness. In addition, all physical artifacts (libraries, etc.)would have to be consistent. This is not unlike the initialization of any MMORPG(Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game). The first part might not even be asinconceivable as it sounds. Perhaps the set of all conscious entities is not that large.Perhaps your boss is an NPC. Or your wife. Perhaps you are the only conscious entity inthe program, which would actually make the simulation fairly simple to execute.However, multi-player models have a significant advantage over the solipsistic ones.They provide this paper with a point.Putting all of this together, we can actually make some predictions about our future.Specifically, and for the purpose of the argument of this paper, Programmed Realitypredicts the following:Any impending civilization-ending trend will always reverse.Here’s why: If we are indeed in a programmed reality, we can say one of two thingsabout the course of the program. Either:1. We will end this reality at some point and begin another one.or…2. We will continue to “play the game.”
  • In the first case, I would argue that the civilization-ending trend merely gets erased,which is an extreme example of reversal. In the second case, there is an incentive for the“programmers” to maintain a construct that allows us to continue to play. Such aconstruct is inconsistent with the idea of a civilization-ending event.Another prediction is:The Singularity will not occur.The Singularity, while not civilization-ending, is certainly a type of event that willdestroy life, reality, and civilization, as we know it. Therefore, by the argument above, itwill not happen. If it does, then I would have to concede that Programmed Reality is nota likely description of our reality.Evidence that the exponential trends are flattening…There is actually evidence that the trends that predict the Singularity are slowing down.The Appendix describes in detail how some of the predictions of acceleratingevolutionary events seem to be flattening out. In fact, it seems that the next paradigm-shifting event may occur about 17 years after the last (WWW), give or take. But themost recent one occurred about 13 years after the previous one (PC). So, by thatrationale, the pace of exponential technological evolution is slowing down. Computerscientist and Virtual Reality pioneer Jaron Lanier thinks he knows why. In his paperOne-Half of a Manifesto (Wired, 2000), he argues that our inability to develop advancesin software will, at least for now, prevent the Singularity from happening according to theMoores Law pace. One great quote from his demi-manifesto: "Just as some newbornrace of superintelligent robots are about to consume all humanity, our dear old specieswill likely be saved by a Windows crash. The poor robots will linger pathetically,begging us to reboot them, even though theyll know it would do no good."1I have been in the software industry for over 25 years and I must admit, I am alsodisheartened by the slow pace of software advances. It seems to be that it takes almost aslong to open a Word document, boot up, or render a 3D object on todays blazingly fastPCs as it did 20 years ago on a machine running at less than 1% of todays clock rate.Kurzweil claims that we have simply forgotten: "Jaron has forgotten just howunresponsive, unwieldy, and limited they were."So, I wondered, who is right? Are there objective tests out there? I found an interestingarticle in PC World that compared the boot-up time from a 1981 PC to that of a 2001 PC.2 Interestingly, the 2001 was over 3 times slower (51 seconds for boot up) than its 20-year predecessor (16 seconds). My 2007 Thinkpad - over 50 seconds. Yes, I know thatVista is much more sophisticated than MS-DOS and therefore consumes much more diskand memory and takes that much more time to load. But really, are those 3D spinningdoodads really helping me work better?
  • Then I found a benchmark comparison on the performance on 6 different Word versionsover the years.3 Summing 5 typical operations, the fastest version was Word 95 at 3seconds. Word 2007 clocked in at 12 seconds (in this test, they all ran on the samemachine).In summary, software has become bloated. Developers dont think about performance asmuch as they used to because memory and CPU speed is cheap. Instead, the trend insoftware development is layers of abstraction and frameworks on top of frameworks.Developers have become increasingly specialized ("I dont do "Tiles", I only do "Struts")and very few get the big picture.What does this have to do with the Singularity? Simply this - With some notableexceptions, software development has not even come close to following Moores Law interms of performance or reliability. Yet, the Singularity predictions depend on it.Infomania and the FlatteningBut the most significant reason that the exponential pace of technological development isslowing down is that our poor brains are simply not able to keep up. Wikipedia definesInfomania as “the debilitating state of information overload, caused by the combinationof a backlog of information to process (usually in email), and continuous interruptionsfrom technologies like phones, instant messaging, and email.” As one who works in thehigh tech industry, I am well aware of the changes that technology and globalization haveimparted on the pace of the typical business life. Not so long ago, people actually tooklunch breaks, spent uninterrupted evenings and weekends with their families, paidattention in meetings, and focused on a few large scale tasks on any given day. Today,however, with the Blackberry on your belt, the cell phone in your pocket, the wirelesslaptop under your arm, you are imminently reachable 24x7x365. People email in theircars, instant message from their laptops during meetings, conduct phone conferencesduring lunch while they work on a couple tasks in between sandwich bites, and in generalprocess many more interrupts than they used to. This behavior is not only condoned, it isexpected in today’s world.A study done by Intel in 1999 showed that the average worker in the high tech industryspends 2.5 hours per day processing email, much of it unnecessary.4 By 2006, anotherstudy by the same company showed that the number had risen to 4 hours per day. Inaddition, the time that it takes to recover from the email interrupts amounts to another50%. For a 9 hour day, that leaves about 2.9 hours of non-email-related work time, noteven considering other forms of unnecessary interrupts. It is no wonder that people feelmore stressed and pressured at work than they did a short time ago. If this is anexponential trend and we project forward another 7 years, we find that email processingalone would take over the average work day, leaving negative time for real work. Soeither, the person would have to put in the extra 3.7 hours to make up for the lostproductivity (further deteriorating the work/life balance) or something else has to give.
  • Erosion of real work 100% 80% 60% actual work time recovery time 40% daily time on email 20% interrupts 0% -20% 1999 2006 2013 (proj.)The answer, of course, is that we can’t sustain this exponential pace. Even if softwaresomehow comes to the rescue with productivity-improving techniques, we have toreverse the trend just to stay productive. This is symbolic of the overall accelerationeffect of modern life. I believe that it will reach a plateau out of necessity, therebystaving off the Singularity.This is perhaps by design. If our minds and emotional psyches were designed to be ableto support an exponentially growing pace of life, our realities would change drastically.In the 1960s, people thought that we were living in a world that was growingexponentially more dangerous due to the specter of nuclear war. In fact, we even set thedoomsday clock to 2 seconds before midnight. However, somehow that seeminglyinevitable trend was reversed. Then in the 1970s, the danger was the populationexplosion. It seemed that we were on a path of exponentially growing population thatthreatened to overrun the planet and bring human life to extinction. Paul Ehrlick’s best-seller, “The Population Bomb”, for example predicted an inevitable mass famine ofhundreds of millions of people the 1970s and 1980s. Not to minimize the current impactof our growing population, this never occurred and the exponential trend has certainlyflattened somewhat in comparison to the projections of the time.It seems that our world, our events, our technology, our trends, have a sort ofthermostatic effect. When they begin to get out of control, something pulls them back tonormalcy. I submit that this is the work of the Programmed Reality, which, beingsignificantly advanced from our best concepts of control systems, has a flattening effectbuilt into all trends. For this reason, it will have the same effect on the Singularity. It
  • will simply not occur. And the reason may just be as simple as the fact that we, theplayers on the stage of the Reality, are not well suited to maintain that pace of growth. APPENDIXFigure 1 is a recreated chart from the data presented by Ray Kurzweil in his book TheSingularity is Near.5 It demonstrates the exponentially accelerating page of change inhuman evolution. By plotting on log-log paper, exponential trends appear as a straightline. The trend shown in this particular chart is the time between successive significantevolutionary events, both biological and technological. Ostensibly, each successive eventis equivalently significant in terms of evolution or technical advancement compared tothe previous one. Therefore, it shows how evolutionary events and technology areaccelerating and will reach a point of singularity. In an article in Washington Monthly,the same year that Kurzweil’s book was published, Steve Benen notes that if youextrapolate the graph for a few more orders of magnitude, it “indicates that major,paradigm-busting inventions should be spaced about a week apart these days.”6 Figure 1
  • I’ve shown that segment of the graph in grey. Kurzweil has correctly pointed out thatyou can’t project a log-log graph into the future, but nevertheless, this graph seems to beimplying that we are on a trend to a Singularity in the current year. If it were not thecase, the trend would be diverging to the right.Another way of looking at it is to redraw the graph with the x-axis being “Time before2045” instead of “Time Before Present.” Figure 2 shows such a graph using the sameevents. If the Singularity were really to happen at 2045 and the events are indeed chosencorrectly, they should fall on the straight line. However, they do not. Figure 2As can be seen, the paradigm-shifting events are diverging toward the current day.What’s going on? One possibility is that the events chosen are wrong. Perhaps, thetechnological advance from the computer to the PC, for example, is not as significant asthe evolution between Homo Erectus and Home Sapiens. Certainly, the choice ofsignificant events is somewhat arbitrary. Unfortunately, we are looking at the problemthrough the lens of present day biases.Even so, it does seem that the PC and the World Wide Web have been the two mostsignificant technological paradigm shifts in recent years. The time between theComputer and the PC was 38 years. The time between the PC and WWW was 13 years.If progress was truly exponential, the next major invention should have occurred in 2001.What was it? It seems to me that we might be looking at a couple possible significantevents in our near future:1. A computer passes the Turing Test (true AI)
  • 2. Artificial Life is created3. Brain-Computer InterfacesIn the recent Loebner Prize competition at the University of Reading, one computersystem came within 5% of fooling enough judges into thinking it was human during anatural language conversation.7 Given that, one might suspect that we will get AI withina few years.A year ago, Craig Venter announced that he was on the brink of creating artificial life.8And, although Brain-Computer Interfaces are a technology at its infancy, it certainly hasbegun, with 60-pixel bionic eyes a reality, and recent successful experiments indetermining sensory stimuli merely by analyzing brain waves.So, it seems that the next paradigm-shifting event may occur about 17 years after the last(WWW), give or take. But the most recent one occurred about 13 years after theprevious one (PC). So, by that rationale, the pace of exponential technological evolutionis slowing down.References: 1. Lanier, Jaron “One-Half of a Manifesto,” Wired, December 2000. http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/8.12/lanier.html?pg=1 2. http://pcworld.about.com/magazine/1908p133id52503.htm 3. http://www.oooninja.com/2008/07/benchmarking-microsoft-word-95-2007.html 4. Nathan Zeldes, David Sward, and Sigal Louchheim, “Infomania: Why we can’t afford to ignore it any longer,” First Monday, http://www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue12_8/zeldes/ 5. Kurzweil, Ray, “The Singularity is Near,” Viking Penguin, 2005. 6. Benen, Steve, “The Singularity,” Washington Monthly 21 September 2005, http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2005_09/007172.php. 7. Williams, Ian, “Artificial intelligence gets a step closer,” vrunet.com, 13 October 2008, http://www.vnunet.com/vnunet/news/2228123/ai-gets-step-closer 8. Pilkington, Ed, “I am creating artificial life, declares US gene pioneer,” The Guardian, 6 October, 2007., http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2007/oct/06/genetics.climatechange